Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Vacation isn't over, but I got to ask?

"I (Scott Walters) dislike insulting an audience (or a community), and you (Don Hall) insult an audience as much by assuming they can't handle anything but candybars (the commercial producer's disease) and assuming that they are tasteless oafs who will never appreciate depth of art (the avant garde artist's disease). Both (Both being Don Hall) under-estimates the audience." - Scott Walters

Italics are mine.
Stepping back into the water...
This is tough, it worries me.

Scott... Are we talking about Don's Art...or his Blog?

Friday, June 27, 2008

FavoriteThing(s)ThisWeek



Ohhhh how I love the Happy Undertaker



The Artist is Drazen Kozjan


p.s. - Devilvet is on blogging/internet vacation until after July 4th weekend
See you then!!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

FavoriteThing(s)ThisWeek






Erotic, Disturbing, Sublime...Echoes of Moreau, Redon, Bunuel, Tanning

Fuco Ueda is simply amazing


p.s. - Devilvet is on blogging/internet vacation until after 4th of July weekend
See you then!

Monday, June 23, 2008

FavoriteThing(s)ThisWeek

Paper Foldables



p.s. - Devilvet is on blogging/internet vacation till after 4th of July weekend.
See you then!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sneak Peak of Next Sunday's Clay Continent!

Please check out our little sneak peak at next Sunday's Clay Continent Episode - Hyde's Game Continues.

New Episodes of Clay Continent the webcomic based on the Mammals Critically acclaimed play, are post every Sunday at themammals.blogspot.com

Thanks for reading! And Please Subscribe!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Who Needs A Vacation? Really?

I was all set to put up my post today on collaboration, but my fingers and the keyboard of my new computer weren't feeling all that collaborative. So when I thought I was copying and pasting, I was instead irreparably erasing the post. Let that be a lesson to oneself to never compose posts via Gmail again. Always use Google Documents. Anyway, I have most of it in the noggin still so it will make it's way here very soon. However, I am taking this incident as a ... happy accident.

Spring is over. Summertime begins! (a voice from the distance yells "Hey DV! It already begun bud!") I know. I know.

April saw the return of my company, The Mammals, to Chicago stage. Don, myself, and many WNEPeers spent the month of May partaking in an event called RAW. Then beach season kicked off with Mr. Walters closing shop temporarily and returning most recently. Since then, I felt compelled to amp up my content and to encourage others to do so too.

Related Links

More Relevant Content about your show on the Blogosphere
Don Hall and DV Talk Process
Is It Worth The Risk Part One
Is It Worth The Risk Part Two

Over the past month, I have been typing away diligently in an attempt to create relevant content that gave value to those readers with whom I share affinities. It is exhausting but rewarding work. I have begun to learn more about sharing of ideas, social media, new methods and tools for communicating and networking.

I have also been quite inspired to attempt to discover and use some of these tools to create new methodologies for collaborating and creating artistic content. I have been working on the Clay Continent Graphic Novel of course. I have also started using Twitter as a tool for creating story, you can look here for an example of my experiments in Twitter fiction. I am excited, but also very tired. So many projects swimming in my head, so many pages both paper and virtual that have been starred or dog earred.

More Related Links

Solomon Rushdie - On Twitter
Clay Continent - Dramatis Persona
Clay Continent - Scene One
Clay Continent - Scene Two

I need some time to reflect, to figure out the ways in which I'm directing my active energies through the end of the Summer and into next year. Sometimes reflection happens between the ears rather than between the fingers and the keys.

And to top it all off... I'm away to a conference for the day job to be followed by time offline hanging with my folks in Florida.

It seems that this is the opportune time to take a little blogging vacation. So, I'll be offline most of the time from the blogosphere from June 20th till the July 4th weekend. I'll try to check in, but cant guarantee (the conference I'm going to is at a swank resort and they like to charge for internet like 20 cents per half minute of usage... ridiculously expense to even check your email). I've got a few posts pre-scheduled (mostly FavoriteThingsThisWeek posts) automated during this bit of digital rest, and I'll be keeping up with the webcomic schedule for Clay Continent... but I wont have daily access to the internet and any comments may sit in my email box a little longer than usual.

Some things to look forward to when I return and through the remainder of the summer

  • Continuation of Process talk as well as Part 3 of my talk with Don Hall about directing my short piece Indeterminacy.
  • Investigation into Nationwide theatrical/narrative Collaborations
  • Storyboards for the Mammals next Theatrical/Graphic Endeavour The Meatlocker
  • A sexy and more functional layout for the blog (I'm hoping)
  • Lots, lots more!!

See you all after the 4th!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Theatrospherians...Where did the week go?

It is Friday. I got a pile of dayjob tasks that makes the Trump Tower Chicago look like an ant hill.

So, that means that the post that was going to appear today about ways for us all to collaborate more as artists...pushed to Monday. Again, apologies all.

Next Week at the devilvet.blogspot.com
  • Collaborating with other theatrospherians
  • Part 3 of Don and DV's Talk on Process (Part 1) (Part 2)
  • Part 3 of Documenting Process - Is It worth the risk (Part 1) (Part 2)

(ok... if I say 3 tasks over 5 days...doable? Tune in next week and find out!!!)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

FavoriteThing(s)ThisWeek





Josh Keyes has glimpsed the coming dystopia... and so much more.

Don Hall and DV talk more Process

Don and myself collaborated recently at WNEP's RAW as director and playwright respectively. We began blogging about our process. Here is Part 2 of our continuing dialogue about the experience...

DV: With newer playwrights, why do their work if you can't do it as written? When meeting with the playwright do you ever consider that your approach to the play in question has any fallibility or do you perceive that exchange to be more about political power balance within the upcoming production? Do you entertain doubts (your own, the playwrights)? Is there anything other than instinct that comes into play if you do entertain the doubt about your concept for a new work?

Don: When it comes to new works, I operate exactly the same way as I do "classic" works - does the play work in the venue I have set up, with the specific cast I have, under the limitations of the budget, etc.? Playwrights mostly write plays without a venue in mind or specific budget in place - I wouldn't have it any other way. Write that scene where monkeys fly out of the protagonist's ass - I'll figure out how to make it work onstage - that's my job.

If you write in the stage directions exactly how it is to be done, then I take that seriously and make the attempt to stage it that way. If it doesn't work, I fix it - also my job. If, for instance, you come to me and ask me to direct "The Meatlocker," the first thing I do is read the script and sit down with you. I clarify what I think the central themes are, what you think the central themes are and discuss the length. I believe firmly that if the piece is over 90 minutes in length, there will be an intermission. If you don't have one and "Meatlocker" is 2 hours long, I give you the option to either cut thirty minutes out or give me an intermission point.

Second, I make it clear that while your input on casting is welcome, final casting is mine to make. I also make it clear that you are to never give notes of any kind to the actors - you have a note, you give it to me and I choose whether or not the actor needs it or even if I agree. This isn't so much about political power as it is about getting a singular focus on the stage - too many cooks makes the soup taste like confusion. If there is a big disagreement during the run, I win. If you wanted to direct it yourself, you would. Given that you asked to direct it, you gave up the opportunity to make directorial choices. It's really not complicated at all.

I always question my own fallibility when it comes to directing a show. I believe that a good director directs for him/herself - to individual taste. A great director directs to his/her own specific likes and dislikes and just happens to like and dislike enough of the same things as a paying audience. A bad director directs to please the audience regardless of his/her own personal tastes. Instinct and experience are the guiding factors in conceptual decisions when it comes to directing and constantly doubting those things leads to mushy work.

DV: Without giving me specific names, can you talk about a previous experience where there were political balance issues between you and a playwright? Were you empowered as the director of the piece, or as the producer? Two different things. So, for instance...If you are a guest director working for a company where you are not the founder, how does that change things?

Don: As a producer, I have no creative power. I'm there to make sure the vision of the director is financed and marketed. I will, as a producer, watch a preview and tell the director when it feels slow or that it was too long by ten minutes but it isn't my job to tell them "how" to fix these problems just that I noticed them. Only once in over 90 original productions I've produced have I stepped in and told a playwright to change something or I would pull the show and that was by request of a less than aggressive director. As a director, there are only a few specific examples of creative tug of war going on between myself and a playwright. One show I directed (as a director for hire) involved a 32-minute monologue in the middle of the show. It was very repetitive and I felt it could work if the monologue was broken up and bounced between another dialogue scene with two other characters. The playwright was adamant that the monologue be performed as written. I asked him to do a re-write incorporating my concept and, in the meantime, I would work with the actor on the monologue as a whole. He reluctantly agreed and when he brought it in, I had the actor do the monologue for him as best as he could. The playwright was shocked that 32-minutes seemed so long and that it must be the actor, not his piece. Having earlier made it clear that these sorts of decisions were ultimately mine to make, I told him I was going to use the re-write. I did and in the end I was very happy because, in my opinion, the show flowed better. Simply put, there is a difference between the written word and the performed piece and the director's job is to know that difference.

DV: Not all Playwrights are oblivious to these differences though.

Don: Aside from "Indeterminacy," have you ever had anyone else direct one of your pieces? If so, how'd that go? If not, what has prevented you from pursuing that?

DV : Not often. I've come on board with pre-existing projects as solely a writer (Armageddon Radio Hour comes to mind)... Also projects in NYC (HERE's LivingRoom Series and The Flea Theater). While in NYC, I was working with an alum from my Alma mater who wasn't satisfied with his own writing and wanted me to provide him with new material.

I've investigated attempting to get others to direct my work. There are a lot of considerations though. And, it can be difficult for one like myself used to directing my own work. I don't feel at all dependent upon another director to realize the work. After nearly a decade of directing my own writing to Chicago audiences with a fair degree of acclaim, why should I? The answer has to be either A) curiosity at seeing what another director would make of one of my scripts (this has as of the past few years become more interesting to me)... B) In the theater world today, wider exposure dictates most often that the playwright not direct (i.e. the compartmentalization of theater)....or C) An attempt at reaping some sort, be it big or small, financial gain from my playwriting (i.e. applying and praying for that circumstantial lottery ticket called "no more dayjob").

Like many, first I was an actor. Once I was given an opportunity to direct, then that bug bite into me. I never needed to act again. I became a director with all kinds of designs on directing the work of my favorite playwrights (at the time Mac Wellman, Susan Lori Parks, Erik Ehn, Maria Irene Fornes, etc). I moved to NYC and discovered these playwrights were directing their own work (like Fornes) or had a long line of folks with more experience and better network (Wellman). Nobody had any need for a know-it-all from Florida State. Mac Wellman was more than happy to talk to me when I was a director in Tallahassee, FL... but when I moved to NYC, he was not got to give me his next new play to put up at a tiny loft space with no elevator just outside the financial district when he could do the new piece at the Kitchen in Chelsea with long time collaborators he had come to know and trust. If I wanted to do something creative and new, I was going to have to write it myself. So I became a playwright. I did this so that I could continue to direct. So this meant that I had to direct the pieces. They were even written that way... storyboards with little or no dialogue, pages of language with no stage directions at all. I was trying to find a style, a voice, a look, an aesthetic... And the work that had inspired me was mostly the formalist experiential artistic -isms of the twentieth century. Auteurism was my Blue Plate Special.

Of course as I got older, the firestorm of reality burned off alot of those notions. I'm still enamoured of auteurism but only when it is either tied to story or encompassing truly exceptional image/aural landscapes. However, with the passage of time and more experience, I found I was moving closer towards the middle when it came to an approach... between total avantism and something more aligned with an audience's vernacular. I started to think "Well maybe someone else can direct this piece...or that piece." I was less focused on the "vision" more so on the "story"... and that changes your priorities for performance. However for me, even if i was getting paid...I would have the final say regarding a premiere production.

And as producer, I don't see my role to be solely as enabler for the director. I see a responsibility to the story and show...and If it is my story... I guess the only reason I am comfortable with the label playwright is because for me...compartmentalization of theater has been contrary to my experience. If I or anyone is going to be allowed to enter the canon...(that is right...I said allowed) I am fully aware that I am going to have to get over these issues I have with compartmentalization. If not, my best hope is to achieve a model of production similar to say Richard Foreman in NYC or possibly Greg Allen here in Chicago.

Indeterminacy was an exercise for a writer's group. And it was three pages long. And I wasn't the producer. Under different circumstances...I might not have been nearly as flexible. If this had been a one or two act that I written and was putting up any amount of money to produce, I might have been less open to certain cuts, etc.etc. I have to say there are a lot of terrible directors out there. (Yes there are alot of great and caring ones too...but...) What makes a bad director terrible differs. I don't think it lies solely or even primarily with as you put it... whom the director is attempting to appease.

The hardest thing about finding a director for your work is you really cant tell if someone is good until you've seen some of the work as well as gotten a chance to see and discuss how the director manages through production. This idea I'm reading that in what you said earlier that it is the directors job to "make it work"...I can agree with, but sometimes the problem is not with the script...sometimes it really is the director who f'ed up a perfectly good piece.

You said "Playwrights mostly write plays without a venue in mind or specific budget in place - I wouldn't have it any other way. Write that scene where monkeys fly out of the protagonist's ass - I'll figure out how to make it work onstage - that's my job. If you write in the stage directions exactly how it is to be done, then I take that seriously and make the attempt to stage it that way. If it doesn't work, I fix it - also my job."

So let me ask a leading question that might show a playwrights' hand...Do you consider (or think alot of directors consider) the playwrights to be the dreamers where as the directors are the doers..?

Is that a baited question or what?!!! Next Week - Part 3 of Don and my discussion about directing, playwriting, and process

Related Links
Don and DV try to talk about Process Part 1

First Draft of Indeterminacy
A Raw Evening

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What is Viral Heroism?

Last week we discussed the concept of Villainy within the Theatrosphere, how frequently conversation turns to debate... turns to irate disagreement... which turns into accusations of Villainy. Don pondered if the perception of Villainy was plausible, positing that it's opposite, Heroism, within the Theatrosphere was an absurdity and therefore so too Villainy.

Whether or not Heroism is achievable within the theatrosphere depends upon what you consider to be heroic. It also is tied in with what you envision as the purpose of blogging.

Does one have to break a non-virtual sweat to achieve something heroic? I often have been criticized in the past for demanding more action within the theatrosphere, being told that as a form in itself, it is not the appropriate vehicle for action. But action does happen in and around our blogs. Here in this virtual arena we are capable of more than mere rumination and disagreement.

The sphere to whom I'm speaking with on a weekly basis is a grouping of storytellers. That is what they do. Hows, Whys, Goals, Destinies are multifarious, but most of us are invested in storytelling. We are at our most active and our best when we are actually adding value and improving the lives of others who are as invested as we are in the telling of stories.

Using that perspective, I can point to the most obvious collective heroism which was the confrontation of a certain alderman's proposed ordinance. Here was a potential threat to the ability of local storytellers to perform and promote. Through the efforts of many, we members of the Chicago theatrosphere did our part to sound the alarm. Some of us led the clarion call. Others took the initiative in smaller ways. And the ordinance was removed from consideration less than 24 hours before it was to be proposed to City Council. The reason cited was public outcry, and that outcry was due in no small part to many bloggers.

Hence heroism even if collective in nature is achieved. Or maybe viral...has anyone yet coined the term "viral heroism"? (Patent Pending...wink)

There is always opportunity for Viral Heroism online...

When one of us finds ways to inspire, captivate or enable others to reconsider

When we provide possibilities that empowers others.

When we overcome cynicism without turning a blind eye to the most arduous of our obstacles.

When we whine less about our exhaustion and rather invigorate ourselves and each other

When we discover and follow through on ways to collaborate as storytellers, methods that were unavailable to us previously

When we illuminate something powerful, novel, useful

When we help elucidate our value as storytellers

When we do these things with intelligence, with an eye to the future, while being aware of historic...these things allow us to direct focus and energy...to better our lot and lot of others.

We should be aware and diligent about cynicism and exhaustion, not only others but our own. It is not enough to merely say to the others or to oneself "Get out of the way. If you are so tired and exhausted then go home." We must find ways to inspire not only those among us who see the vision, but those who are desperate for some kind of hope. If we achieve that...I think it is heroic.

So the creation of sustainable, contextualized hope for the storytellers out there tuning in...in that lies opportunities for heroism Digital heroism. Viral Heroism.

Nourishing the hope of others while sustaining your own ambitions...I have to believe that this is achievable. If I didn't then, I'd probably stop blogging altogether.


A Post Script - Perhaps an unnecessary one

I will not say that our capacity for heroism is tied into the content of our stories on stage and on the page. I am still cautious about this notion because of some recent accusations about the true nature of Avantism (something I attempt to champion). Content be it within the blogosphere or on stage that makes the world a better place is achievable (if not verifiable in a direct sense) But... I want to clarify...that does not mean putting up "happy stories" or "speaking with a peaceful voice". In today's environment where we are so used to being mislead or ignored by the establishment while they perpetrate illegal foreign destruction...in such an environment, we can forget that not all calls to peace are beneficial. Sometimes the profane can be heroic. Sometimes the tragedy enacted on stage helps to curtail perceived inevitability of a similar tragedy in real life. Not every play, story, and song has to end with resolution or a wedding. Not every tale told incorporating subversion, experimentation, or dissent is for lack of better term degenerate art.




Related Links

Regarding Theatrosphere - Is Villainy Inevitable?

The City Busted the Little Guy Again

Greyzelda's Post regarding savechicagoculture.org
Chicago Promoter's Ordinance is Tabled for the Time Being
One Step Forward...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

FavoriteThing(s)ThisWeek



5.12 Earthquake Strips by Coco Wang.

I found these on a comic enthusiast site run by Paul Gravett, an illustrator himself. I wasn't able to locate Coco Wang's strips more directly than through Gravett's site. Still, I want to thank him for pointing me to this work.

These are phenomenally moving IMO. I was not prepared for how quickly these simple images and stories drew emotion out of me. As sequential art their incredible. What do storytellers across the spectrum of media have to take from this?

Coco Wang's Site.

Here is a completely different comic off the website

Monday, June 09, 2008

What does the future hold fellow theatrospherians?

First off, I'm begging you to go check out this week's installment of Clay Continent over at themammals.blogspot.com. It stars a certain Angry White Guy that everybody loves to hate. If you like the Mammals, or Horror, or think it is cool at all...then subscribe to the feed!

OK...now back to ....
This week at devilvet.blogspot.com

The continuation of the interview/discussion between Don Hall and DV regarding process and the short play Indeterminacy recently produced as part of the WNEP RAW (Click here to read part one).

We talked last week about antagonism and villainy within the theatrosphere. Don Hall suggested that if we talk about villainy, why not discuss Heroism. I think he was being ironic. However, this week we'll be posting about Heroism within this theatrosphere and whether or not it is truly achievable.

I've got some great FavoriteThing(s)ThisWeek I've been sitting on for far too long.

This Friday we will close the week with some proposals for mp3, voicemail, and podcasting as a potential methodology for bloggers to collaborate despite their location on the globe. BTW Keenan has a post about audio that is pretty fascinating stuff.

And who knows if there is anytime left over maybe I'll be able to post Part 3 or my continuing series - Is It Worth the Risk? Documenting Creative Process.

It is only Sunday and my fingertips are already bleeding!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Is It Worth the Risk? Documenting Creative Process - Part Two

The quintessential avantist. A man accused of genius as well as chicanery. His failures are more renown than most others' success. His position in the global world of theater is barely paralleled. Yet in the land of his birth, there is a chasm between the artist and his countrymen's popular culture. Reference to his obstinacy and temperament abound, and in some people's perspective...he is a monster...an artistic equivalent to the world's worse dictators.

We are talking about Robert Wilson. Many wonder why has Wilson risen to the prominence he has in world theater? The doubtful perceive Wilson's success as an enigma enabling an unearned entitlement. But is he merely a formalist lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time? Since the value of his artistic product is ultimately a question of taste, his most ardent detractors focus their criticisms on his process. The result is that when one thinks of Wilson, more often they think not of his imagery... but rather apocryphal tales of him bullying his collaborators.

However, there is a new documentary entitled Absolute Wilson, and this film shows you the life of the man and the amazing path that brought him to his theatrical apogee. Through it we are able to see that Wilson is not so easily dismissed as an elitist or collaborative tyrant.

Wilson has unquestionably been labeled by many as the sort of individual who walks into a room rigid, buttoned up, distant, encased, precious as a museum antiquity. Some even elude that his social skills better qualify him to be a window-dresser than a theatrical director. But, when one experiences the biography of the man through the documentary, a different image appears. And even if it is only an illusion, it is a valuable one that brings a heightened perspective to those who already claim to be fans, as well as providing a human face, and a previously impossible to conceive vulnerability to Robert Wilson allowing spectators access where previously there was
none.

We do get video excerpts of him running about in slightly tyrannical fashion. In hindsight those shots of him in the midst of process are not so flattering. But, we also get to hear about the young Robert Wilson who prevented ill informed police officers from brutalizing a deaf minority. We see how he adopted the deaf boy and how they shaped their relationship into an artist collaboration. We hear about the troubled young Wilson who couldn't fit into the world, who wouldn't speak due to a terrible stutter until he was mentored by a woman named Byrd Hoffman. Suddenly the process viewed is not simply an elitist tantrum. His struggle in the rehearsal room is informed by the knowledge of work he did with patients in hospitals, helping people encased in iron lungs make performance art. One could argue that if the paradigm of artist as philanthropist has any validity, that Young Robert Wilson was the embodiment of that. Wilson enabled individuals like Christopher Knowles to create and inconceivably capture a spotlight unimaginable. This image of Robert Wilson, as valid as any other, is easily forgotten while he growls at technicians during a tech for an opera or obsessively moves a starred performer's limbs as if a mannequin's.

We see and hear of his process... both positives and problematics, but the process and the image of the man himself is transformed via his biography. Biography illuminates and even humanizes his difficult process. And once again this exposure to the audience better enables them to absorb and appreciate the man's work. His latest collaboration with Tom Waits or Lou Reed are far from what anyone could call humanitarianism, but it was a strangely awkward humanist approach that opened the door to Wilson's experience and his art. That knowledge has value for both Wilson and for a potential audience trying to understand his work.

Related Posts

Is It Worth the Risk - Documenting Creative Process - Part 1

Thursday, June 05, 2008

FavoriteThing(s)ThisWeek

Thanks to del.icio.us and Bock's Car (occasionally NSFW...cussing and stuff)

Don Hall and DV try to talk Process about WNEP'S RAW

Every time I type WNEP'S RAW, it feels like I'm a wrestling promoter. Anyway the short version is that I wrote a piece entitled Indeterminacy and Don Hall directed it. We thought we'd try to talk process a little bit and see if we'd learn anything from each other or if the whole thing will end up with either one comparing the other to Hitler...



DV
: What do you remember from the first reading of Indeterminacy at Write Club?

Don: That the writing was awesome - that the central question (what is the fucking number?) was compelling and that the use of language was very prose-oriented - more like a short-story than a monologue and more like an Edgar Allen Poe meets Rod Serling vibe than something lighter or more exposed. I remember kind of gushing about it, I liked it so much. Most important, I wanted to read the rest of the story right then and there. Is there a "rest of the story?" Is it for the stage or for the page?

DV: I could see another draft making it more concise, but to add events to the narrative would spoil the meal. Theater still has its hooks in me. So every story I come up with... I ultimately want enacted in a front of an audience. I'm comfortable calling Indeterminacy a monologue for stage. But, I wont get upset if someone else considers it a short story. Lately, I've wanted to see more well crafted monologues on stage. I've had this bug lately...(It's called Storytelling, not Story-showing). So I tried to challenge/investigate how to let the story and storyteller breathe on stage and have the space to share the tale without overstaying the welcome or becoming too inactive.

I have spent some of the last 2 years writing stories in prose form that I hope to eventually make stage plays. I am finding that prose can free me in a way that scripting can sometimes choke up my imagination. I have so many habits as a playwright, sometimes those habits can lock me up when I lean over a blank sheet of paper. The other thing that happens to me alot is that not all of the games/exercises we use in Write Club enable me as much as I would hope.

Don:You've mentioned that...It gave no one else any trouble. So what's your problem?

DV: First, I would debate that no one else ever has trouble following the form of the exercises. There are plenty of times when one of the other writers (you included during those months we held the club at your place) simply tell Jen* they don't have their "homework" to read that month. Some writers will catch up on assignments the following month. Sometimes a writer (not just me) lets the assignment fade off undone into the horizon.

Some of Jen's prompts will really get my right brain working (The Hopper exercises are an example of that...I wrote enough Hopper pieces to put up my own one act) but other times...nothing gets cooking. Since Jen lets us share what we have been working on...I never want to miss an opportunity to receive feedback. So, even if the exercise didn't click for me, I always bring something to read and fortunately for me, Jen and everyone else is generous enough to listen.

The ironic thing about Indeterminacy is that it was one of those exercises that really frustrated me. The exercise (putting 3 random items in a brown paper bag to give to the writer to make a story) generated in me a completely irrational anger. That first line to the piece - "I abhor Indeterminacy" was a reaction to the exercise itself. But acknowledging that on paper somehow opened me up and suddenly I was able to make something out of the items I was given (a picture of a woman in field at a great distance, a dice, and OMG it has been a year...and I can't remember the 3rd item...so lets just say my Anger was the third item...If Jen reads this maybe she can remember?).

Frustration, Anger, and Discontent as an engine for creativity? Why do I think this notion might appeal to you Donny Ray?

Let's talk about the Tech...

Don: OK...You cringed during the music the first time you saw the run-through. I saw you cringe but was pretty happy with the choice anyway. I asked you why you had problems with it, you told me and I listened but didn't change the music. Did that make you nuts or what?

DV:Not to get too Machiavellian but I made a conscious effort during certain loud rooster moments in the music to shake my head again and again. The first time was certainly involuntary. I was surprised by the cockadoddle do call made by the vocalist on the recording. But after that I was actually "performing" my distaste with the volume specifically for your benefit. I did this for a few reasons. The first was I wanted you to see it.... my thoughts being that if you agreed that it was too loud, you might tell me the music was going to be turned down without me even "saying" it. With someone I don't know, I think this would have been a much greater risk. Heck even with you, I thought "He might not appreciate this demonstrative note from me." However, I know that good, bad or ugly...you'd respect and desire my honest appraisal...even if we didn't agree in the end.

Did you think me shaking my head during a tech was inappropriate?

Don: Not inappropriate at all, but I’m unusual like that. There is far too much “polite” that goes on during the creation and presentation of artistic work. I’d MUCH rather have someone come up to me and tell me to my face what a fucking hack I am than politely try to negotiate. Was I initially irritated? Yup. But that gave way immediately to the feeling that, at least in this specific case, I was there to serve your piece, not the other way around (although I didn’t change the piece of music, I just instructed Henri to lower the volume a bit at a certain point and worked with Yeater to project past it – to beat the music rather than let it beat him – and it all worked out the it needed to).

DV: Also I'd like to add. I would never have shaken my head like that at a regular rehearsal. I would have probably involuntarily made a face. But, I would have made an effort to conceal my reaction (I'll admit my poker face fails me on occasion).

Second, it was a tech rehearsal. Discussions over the volume of sound cues are up for grabs in such an environment. Ultimately, the power during performance actually resides with Henri Dugas (Tech). I actually remember telling you that I liked the music, but I could not hear the actor. I could tell from your reaction to my note that you weren't concerned about Jim Yeater's audibility (Actor). I also know (or assume) that you are savvy enough to know that the actor needs to be heard. You told me he would be heard in the end...or assured me that that was your intent. So, that was that. I took you at your word. I moved on.

Let it "drive me nuts"? If I were to get "nuts" who would be the focus of my consternation? You for not picking a different piece of music? Henri for having his finger on the volume knob? Jim for not projecting more? In the end, none of us are getting a Tony Award regardless of how loud or quiet the music is, so I just have to content myself for handling that with which I have some sort of control and/or influence and letting go ultimately of the rest. Also... on any given night, different audience members are going to have varying opinions about whether they could hear Jim during the loud vocalizations on the recording.

In the end I thought the use of music was a good choice and whether it was lowered or Jim projected more...I was able to hear (almost) every word. So for that I was thankful.

My turn for a question...I know you pretty well. I know that you have strong opinions about production hierarchy. However, you went out of your way to let me know on a couple occasions that as far as you were concerned this production was an extension of the writing exercise. So...Even though we are fierce friends, I wonder sometimes if I could let you direct a full production of something I have written. I have no doubt you'd bring all your talent and sincerity to the project. The ultimate question would be if I was comfortable with your vision of my text before anyone even saw my vision for it? You've mentioned to me how you wanted to direct these RAW pieces with deference to the writer's intent. Talk about that...about you usually approach versus how you approached this. How do you conceive differently. How to process differently. What sort of conversations pre-rehearsal would you have with a playwright that maybe you didn't have with me? And, if you were given total complete autonomy over presentation what would you have changed? If anything?

Don: My standard approach is that when I take on a piece to direct it, it becomes mine. Yes, the playwright owns the play but I own the production of the play and at that point, just like if I'm a conductor conducting an orchestral piece of music, my interpretation of the piece now comes into play. If I need to make cuts, I make them. I do not, however, ever make additions to the text.

For this piece, it was implicit in the exercise that this was FOR the writers primarily and I took that in stride.

Pre-rehearsal conversations ordinarily would include "Here's what I think the play is about and here are my plans to put it up onstage. Whaddya think?" Two things happen - the playwright agrees with my interpretation or he doesn't and we haggle for what it is the piece is actually saying beyond the literal interpretation until we come to some sort of common understanding. Sometimes it's a smooth process; sometimes it's brutal & I always let them know that if I am directing it, it's my call in the end.

DV: If you are directing? Or if you are producing? Or to rephrase...does the prerogative you lay out here apply to WNEP shows or any show?

Also...I like your approach about owning the production (...in the event that a playwright is dead or at least established). With newer playwrights, my question would be why do their work if you can't do it as written? When meeting with the playwright do you ever consider that your approach to the play in question has any fallibility or do you perceive that exchange to be more about political power balance within the upcoming production? I.e. do you entertain doubts (your own, the playwrights)? Is there anything other than say instinct that comes into play if you do entertain the doubt about your concept for a new work?

That's a nice Cliffhanger for Part Two...hoping to have it ready for you dear Reader...Next Week!!!

* Jen Ellison is the artistic director of WNEP and the founder of the WRITE CLUB

Related Links

First Draft of Indeterminacy

A Raw Evening

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

What are you reading?

Meme - Books


1) Last book you started - Title, author and brief description
2) Last book you finished - Same as above
3) Best book you've read in the past 12 months - Same as above and why (2 and 3 way ties are allowed)
4) Best(ish) book you ever read - you get it


1) Two Brothers by Bernardo Atxaga. Story of 2 brothers who lose parent and come of age as told by animal naarators who witness the action

2) I Have a Right to Destroy Myself by Young Ha Kim. A wild hypnotic book about a woman who arranges for her suicide with the Narrator. Reading this book was like a fever dream. The woman sleeps with brothers who dont seem to be able to get past her. It was a great read, but I cant tell you what it was about other than Art and Letting Go and other such stuff.

3) Sleepwalking Land by Mia Couto. African dystopic magic realism. Mesmerized me. Close Second was St Lucy's School for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell...short stories about magic and kids and loss of innocence with occasional corpses.

4) Probably SlaughterHouse-Five by Vonnegut. I have read it like 6 or 7 times or maybe Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway



Regarding Theatrosphere - Is Villainy Inevitable?

"Communication is not just words, paint on canvas, math symbols or the equations and models of scientists. It is the interrelation of human beings trying to escape loneliness, trying to share experience, trying to implant ideas. "

William Marsteller - cofounder of PR company Creative Management.
Fellow theatrospherians... Are we really that different? So many of us stand on either side of imagined boundaries on a virtual map. Sure we have different approaches, different tone, timbre, volume, points of view. The obstacles we encounter are diverse, but sometimes we are our own obstacles.

In the end, haven't we each set up our own stations online in order to accomplish similar goals? If we pull back to absorb the entire periphery, we see a garden instead of a barbed thorn beneath a single bulb.

We may not agree as to the best method for tending the garden, but no amount of shoving each other will exile the other gardener. We can choose to be opponents towards each other if that serves to encourage debate, exploration, cross pollination. But, we should strive to remember that none of our "opponents" are attempting to ravage the green. No one's goal here is deforestation or desolation.

Kurt Vonnegut told an anecdote about how his father remarked that none of his stories had a traditional villain. I like my fictions filled to the brim with pulpy drama. Whereas the theatrosphere can certainly house fictions, it is for many a primarily non-fictional medium. When it comes to my non-fiction...I think it better to strive for Antagonism divorced of Villainy.

Antagonism is inevitable.
Villainy is not.

Related Links
Subtext to Text - RatSass
NonProfit Arts - Just a Substitute Teacher - Don Hall

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Monday, June 02, 2008

FavoriteThing(s)ThisWeek



Mars Attacks!!! Bubble Gum Trading Cards.

Why don't we in the Chicago Theater Scene have trading cards?